By W. Casan Scott
Every NFL team sent personnel to the 2016 Ohio State pro-day to watch quarterback Cardale Jones throw, running back Ezekiel Elliot catch, and wide receiver prospects Braxton Miller and Michael Thomas re-run the forty yard dash. And fortunately for Miller and Thomas, there may not be a better place in the world to re-run a 40 yard dash.
Dating back to 2004 when Will Smith ran the 40 in 4.58 seconds at his pro-day, I grew very suspicious of times run on that surface in Columbus. Since 2008, every prospect that has run at both the NFL Combine and the Ohio State pro-day has improved their 40 yard dash time by a minimum of 0.04 seconds and a maximum of 0.23 seconds (mean=0.13 seconds).
Inconsistencies like this are why the NFL Combine is so great for historical comparisons. Prospects are forced to run on the same surface, location, and time as past participants. When you add in variables like a different running surface, an in-house track, and no pre-combine drug tests, you negate any value in head-to-head comparisons. In a job market where inches separate success from failure, potentially improving your speed from 4.50 to 4.27 seconds could earn a prospect millions in signing bonus on draft day. Ohio State sends tons of talent into the 2016 NFL Draft, but it is important to keep today’s pro-day in perspective.